By Samantha Masunaga, December 26, 2014
The Lancaster, named after the city where it was built by BYD Motors
Inc., is entirely electric and features the accordion-like articulation
of L.A.'s extra-long buses.
With a faint hum about as loud as a Toyota Prius, 60 feet of transportation history rounds a corner in a Lancaster parking lot.
Fresh from a test run on Los Angeles' Metro Orange Line last week, it is the country's first electric articulated bus.
an opportunity for there to be a renaissance in public transportation,"
said James Holtz, fleet sales manager for manufacturer BYD Motors Inc.
The bus runs on
eight lithium iron phosphate battery modules, four to a side, that
provide enough charge for more than 170 miles, Holtz said. In lab tests,
the batteries have a life cycle of about 27 years, about twice the life
span of an average bus, he said. The bus can hold up to 120 passengers.
zero-emission bus, named the Lancaster after its birthplace at the BYD
manufacturing facility, was unveiled in October at the American Public
Transportation Assn. Expo in Houston. Its next big appearance was on the
Orange Line, whereHoltz said the bus was praised for its quietness. Electric
buses themselves are not so uncommon. Cities around the country already
run these types of buses, including San Antonio, Pomona and the
Tri-Cities area in Washington state. Stanford University also operates a
40-foot bus, which was BYD's first U.S. electric bus order. But none of
those electric buses bear the accordion-like articulation of L.A.'s
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation
Authority has submitted an order for 25 of BYD's 40-foot electric
buses, said Brendan Riley, vice president of sales for BYD Motors Inc.
But it has not ordered the articulated electric one, which is still
being shown around several cities.
Gary Spivack, division transportation manager for Metro, said the
testing of the articulated electric bus was positive; operators enjoyed
driving the bus based on the smooth ride and quiet inside, and
passengers enjoyed being in the bus, he said.
He said Metro hasn't made up its mind about ordering the
60-foot bus, saying range is a paramount issue when it comes to any
"We need something that goes 250 miles a day," Spivack said.
cost for the electric articulated bus is about $1.2 million, Riley
said. In contrast, a comparable natural-gas articulated bus sells for
BYD plans to take the Lancaster up and down the state,
from the Bay Area to San Diego, and up the coast, to Portland and areas
of Washington, to showcase it, Holtz said. Ultimately, the bus will go
to Altoona, Pa., for testing.
might be new to the bus manufacturing game in the U.S., but in China,
where BYD is headquartered, it has been manufacturing cars for 11 years
and buses for at least 5, Holtz said.
The company got its start in battery manufacturing, and produces about 30-40% of the world's cellphone batteries, Holtz said.
in Lancaster, bus operator Peter Balian starts the vehicle with the
push of a button and drives around the parking lot of the manufacturing
facility. He's only been driving buses for eight months, but he said his previous work driving a tow
truck, as well as working at Metrolink, made the transition relatively
Balian said he enjoyed driving the large bus.
"It has a lot of power," he said, "and it grabs a lot of attention."